Retro Coin Op Synopsis
“Big money! Big prizes! I love it!”
'Reality TV' took on an ugly new face in Smash TV, a riff on the 'deadly game show' idea of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick The Running Man. This later-generation kin of the arcade classic Robotron: 2084 was designed by that game’s creator, Eugene Jarvis. Smash TV played much like its 1982 forebear, but with a new theme, new power-ups and heightened, gory graphics.
Unlike the robotic genocide of Robotron, Smash TV was actually played for laughs. The game theorized that in the not-too-distant future (1999), the hottest television show in the land would be a deadly game show (eerily psychic, eh?), with one or two contestants facing an army of armed thugs for cash and lovely prizes.
Hosted by MC Mayhem, who popped up during the game to offer color commentary, Smash TV was set in three different arenas, each with multiple rooms. Once the players entered the arena, the doors slid open and the angry masses swarmed in—thugs with bats, tubby guys who exploded and sent shrapnel flying, and more. Most rooms also had other threats, like land mines and wall-mounted cannons, making each new screen a literal deathtrap.
To balance out all the nastiness in the rooms, the good folks at Smash TV also threw in stacks and stacks of stunning gifts—cash, gold, washing machines, luxurious vacations and so on. For your more immediate needs, the game also delivered the occasional power-up, giving your contestant temporary invulnerability, a three-way gun, swirling sawblade protectors and other helpful devices. These came in especially handy for facing down the game’s end-of-arena bosses, including the enormous Mutoid Man and a pair of giant cobras.
Along with its claustrophobic setting (the doors didn’t open again until all your foes were dead) and extremely high number of on-screen enemies, Smash TV shared another familiar Robotron characteristic: the dual joysticks. Instead of the standard “joystick and fire button” configuration, Smash TV gave players directional firing control with a separate stick. This was an absolute necessity with the number of enemies your contestants faced, allowing them to run away while still firing back at the pursuing hordes. The option of having a second player join in took a little more of the pressure off, but that only cut the odds of survival from 1,000,000:1 to 500,000:1. Either way, your team was severely outnumbered and outgunned.
With its high body count and blood quotient, Smash TV was a logical successor to Williams’ NARC and a preview of things to come in the Mortal Kombat series. The game also helped begin another traditional element of the Mortal Kombat games: hidden levels. Some versions of the game allowed in-the-know players to find their way into the legendary “Pleasure Domes,” secret prize-filled rooms in the final arena. As the word spread, players returned to the arcade, scrambling to be the first kid on the block to show off this new secret.
Not that Smash TV needed the help. The game was already a smash hit, giving the proven Robotron formula a hip, modern twist. Eugene Jarvis got another winner to add to his resume, and Williams continued its arcade comeback after the crushing mid-80’s market crash.